Born 1891 Died 1930
Romer Wilson was the literary pen name adopted by Florence Roma Muir
Wilson, or O'Brien as she later became after her marriage. She was born
on the 26th December 1891 at 30 Collegiate Crescent, Ecclesall in
Sheffield, the daughter of Arnold Muir Wilson, a local solicitor.
She was educated at the West Heath School in Ham, and at Girton
College, Cambridge where she read Law but graduated "with mediocre
honours" in 1914.
During World War I she sold potatoes on behalf of the Board of
Agriculture and Fisheries, whilst working on what was to be her first
novel, Martin Schüler, being inspired to write by the
boredom induced by the war. She wrote the first half in three weeks
during the summer of 1915, but then got stuck and threw the manuscript
away. A friend retrieved it, and she eventually returned to it in 1917,
when she spent another three weeks finishing it. The tale of an
obsessive German composer and his lust for fame and featuring an
inevitable tragic denouement, Martin Schüler created
something of a literary sensation when it was published in October
1918; Edward Shanks hailed the novel as an "extraordinary tour de
force of the creative imagination".
Her second novel, If All These Young Men, which took as
its subject the impact of the war on the home front, appeared in the
following year, bit it was her third novel, The Death of
Society, which chronicled the realtionship between an Englishman
and an older married Norwegian woman, was awarded the Hawthornden
Prize in 1921.
She was in Italy correcting proofs of her fourth novel, The
Grand Tour, when she met an American named Edward Joseph H.
O'Brien, They were married shortly afterwards and in 1928 they moved
to Switzerland and set up home at the Villa Pauliska in Locarno.
She wrote three more novels after The Grand Tour but they
failed to achieved quite the same impact as her early novels, and her
work has now been largely forgotten and has received little in the way
of recent critical attention. She now appears to remembered only for
her romantic and rather inaccurate biography of Emily Brontë, and for
editing several collections of fairy-tales which, on the evidence of
the prices now quoted for Red Magic: A Collection of the World's
Best Fairy Tales from All Countries (Jonathan Cape, 1930),
featuring illustrations by Kay Nielsen, appear to be collector's
According to Robert Nichols her face "bore an extraordinary
resemblance to that of Keats" and just like John Keats she died of
tuberculosis at Lausanne on the 11th January 1930 shortly after her